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ALL SUMMER LONG IH. E. Francis YOUR GRANDMOTHER CAN'T STAND the lobster smeU stinking up the curtains and furniture and clothes so your uncle Eddie bofls the lobsters outside. Eddie enjoys the job. EarUer he buUt a fire in the brick pit and the gigantic pot is giving off steam that quick thins to air. Eddie caUs you. Look, Middie! He takes the one- and two-pounders from the buckets and drops them into the boiling water. For a moment the lobsters struggle for dear Ufe. The clanking of claws against the metal goes right through you, but quick the moving stops and in no time the green and dark parts of the sheUs turn orange. This day. How many times do you wander into the memory of this day thirty years gone? That is Uke asking how many are the days of your Ufe. Your grandmother is setting the picnic table. Your uncle Jared and uncle Franklin have just driven up with their dates, the aunts-to-be, Helen and Una; and Jared and FrankUn are heckling them with smartass cracks they think a kid fourteen Uke you won't catch on to: TU give you something you're not looking for. There's more up front than meets the eye. I can see down into the valley of Paradise. When Eddie shouts the lobsters are done, out comes your grandmother with the potato salad. Come help, Middie, she says. In a trau you both carry cole slaw and vegetable JeU-o and roUs and melted butter for dipping the meat in and a box of old sUver nutcrackers for breaking claws. When the lobsters are pUed dripping on newspapers, Eddie caUs, Help yourselves, everybody. Eddie turns to his wife. Where are the kids, Nora? They be playing, Nora says. Eddie's wife's always a Uttle sad when she comes to Greenport because her firstborn the Uttle three-month-old girl is buried in Stirling Cemetery just two blocks down the road. You can see the stone columns of the entrance from the upstairs front bedroom, yours for the summer. StUl, in company she's a marathon talker and laughs deep in her throat, never conscious of her Polack talk that sounds Uke bad translation sometimes, Uke this: and that birthday Eddie be drunk and standing in garden with camera but be laughing so he can't take picture. Nora's always pretty in picture hats she forever wears against sun; today she wears soft straw, beige. Right now it is scorching down July. Lucky the table and benches are under the shady maple. You sit in an aluminum chair your mother restrung H. E. Francis The Missouri Review · 193 herself with blue plastic bands bought at the home repair classes she took one summer at the Legion haU on the harbor downtown. Jared and Franklin sit on the ground at the foot of their fianc' ees' chairs, lobsters spread on newspapers. The four stick dose. In September they'U have a double wedding—two brothers, two sisters. For a whUe aU you hear is sheUs cracking. Suddenly there's a meow, the cat from next door, a second, then the two strays come out from under the blue spruce. You can't beat a cafs smeUer, your grandmother says, watch out, first thing they'U be on the table. You balance your plate on your knees. Lobster, Mid? Eddie says. No lobster for you—sheUing's too hard work, and smeUy. Besides, you're wearing the Ulac perfume you bought yesterday at The Arcade. Miss Priss, your grandmother says, is afraid to stain her dress. Miss Priss, she says, bragging she's so thin—we aU were once. But her voice is milky warm and smiley with pride as she flicks you a feigned chicling but reaUy tender glance. Wish I had Mid's ankles, Helen says. At home your mother always says, Like mine, and she always adds, Mid, fine ankles and a smaU waist, that's where the grace Ues. Your new dress shows you are thin and firm but soft too. You know you quiver when you move. Your mother doesn't Uke...


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